Latest international motorsport - WRC rallying and IRL Indycars
Loeb extends lead in Portugal
April 1, 2007, 10.30am. World champion Sebastien Loeb took the Rally of Portugal by the scruff of the neck during Leg 2 on Saturday, winning all six special stages and converting a three-second lead into a more than 40-second margin by the overnight halt.
The Citroen C4 WRC driver leads from Marcus Gronholm (Ford Focus RS WRC 2006), with Gronholm’s teammate Mikko Hirvonen third.
"My car was working perfectly," said Loeb. "We (made good) tyre choices today, and had no problems at all."
Loeb started the day on softer compound tyres, but Gronholm went for a harder, intermediate, compound.
The roads hadn’t dried from overnight rain, and Loeb took the lead to 15 seconds on the first three stages.
"I wasn't 100 percent sure softer tyres would last more than 70km of stages on these roads," Gronholm said.
"It was raining in service this morning but we knew from the recce that the roads were abrasive so I thought there was no alternative but to take a medium compound.
“Loeb had softer tyres for the wet conditions but I don't have a clear answer as to why he was quicker."
On drier roads in the afternoon, Loeb again made the right tyre choice and Gronholm’s intermediate compound tyres proved too soft.
"The tyres were too soft and were moving about too much but I'm not sure that even with the right tyres I would have caught Loeb,” Gronholm said.
“It's disappointing but I think the gap is too big now unless Seb has problems."
Petter Solberg is fourth in the works Subaru Impreza WRC 2007, though he couldn’t match Hirvonen who almost doubled his Leg 1 lead.
Dani Sordo (Citroen C4 WRC) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Focus) complete the top six.
More from Portugal later.
Dixon starts from fourth on grid
April 1, 2007, 10.30am. Target Team Ganassi driver Scott Dixon has qualified the #9 Dallara fourth on the grid for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Indy racing League (IRL) street race.
Tony Kanaan, the provisional pole-winner after single car qualifying, put his car into the wall during the Firestone Fast Six, giving Helio Castroneves the prime starting position.
Dixon’s teammate, Dan Wheldon, who won last weekend’s IRL series opener on the Homestead Miami oval, hit the tyre barrier in morning practice causing enough damage to the #10 car that the team had to prepare the back-up car for qualifying.
A bobble during his qualifying lap left him out of the Firestone Fast Six Shootout and in a 14th place starting position.
Marco Andretti is second on the grid, with Dario Franchitti third.